Last-Minute Christmas Shopping On A Shoestring Budget

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Christmas is coming! Brno Daily’s Cathy Khoury-Prinsloo shares some ideas on how to buy thoughtful and meaningful gifts for your loved ones, without breaking the bank… Credit: KK / BD.

Are you doing your last-minute Christmas shopping, but don’t have the energy or the budget for shopping mall trips? Here are some surprisingly affordable, relaxing options, which with some careful thought could often result in good investment gifts.

These are way better than short-term gimmicks and baubles. Plus YOU get the freebie gift of a meditation on Life and Love in the process. It’s a win-win situation.

1. Second-hand and Pawn shops. Zlevněnkas and Zastavárnas.

The Zlevněnka, Zastavárna and Retro shops are a treasure trove of yesteryear ornaments collected from around the world, but no longer kept by the previous owners for various reasons: financial, convenience or changing tastes.

You just need to take a bit of time to look through the items carefully, and then choose what seems beautiful and worthwhile to you.

It’s hard to go wrong choosing a beautifully shaped and finished vase, which costs under 100 crowns, and sometimes as little as 5 or 10 crowns.

Or a delicate original 1986 framed lithograph, numbered 15/200, signed and dated by Czech artist Jana Ondrušová-Wünschová, now in her eighties, for just 20 crowns.

Or a decorative 1991 German Tirschenreuth ceramic plate, titled the Proud Rooster. The artwork was exclusively designed for this manufacturer by nature artist Ursula Band. It was priced at 45 crowns, but currently sells on online sites for an average of 20 Euros – roughly CZK 490.

Or a Maccabi Games plate, dated 1964, Tel Aviv, with the charming figures of David and Goliath individually attached with small metal studs, bought for 90 crowns.

Or a gold-rimmed plate, by well-known Czech porcelain factory Thun, for just 10 crowns. Metal cannot be used in microwave ovens, and the plate would need to be hand-washed, so it was possibly disposed of because it was no longer convenient to use.

Where to go:

  • Zlevněnka – Veveří 37
  • Zlevněnka – Křenová 67
  • Retro Recycle Shop – Milady Horákové 9

2. Christian-themed Christmas gifts

If you would like to give a gift with a special Christmas theme, the little shop to the right of the Capuchin church on Zelný trh is the perfect place. It is called the Prodejna Liturgický Apoštolát. This unusual repository of Christian items is run by a Polish order of Catholic nuns.

The items are very well priced; you can buy beautifully crafted original cloisonné rosaries for just 120 crowns. There are crosses and nativity scenes, holy cards, Christmas cards and table place settings.

You can buy a pack of 10 big Czech wafers with an embossed depiction of Mary with the baby Jesus for just 45 crowns, or a small pack of four rectangular Polish wafers for only 10 crowns. The nun on duty, Sister Miriam, explained an interesting Polish tradition. At the Christmas meal, the family gives each other a small portion of these wafers. It is a symbolic sharing of food, and the family also ask forgiveness of each other for any offence or hurt they may have caused during the year.

Sister Miriam apologised to the customer ahead of us, who had asked why the shop only opens at 10am. She explained that from 8.30 to 10.00am the nuns spend their time praying, especially for the people who will enter their shop each day.

So before you even enter this shop, you and the recipients of your gifts, have been prayed for. The items you purchase have all been blessed by the priests, and hence, especially for Catholics, do not need to be individually blessed again. This is a shop you leave closing the door very carefully and gently.

Where to go:

  • Kapucínské Náměstí 5, just off Zelny Trh

3. Antique Shops (Starožitnosti) and Army Shops

Antique shops don’t have to be totally intimidating for budget shoppers. Look in the windows first. This will give you an idea of prices, and often some cheap items are displayed to attract customers.

It is possible to buy beautiful little Dux porcelain vases and salt holders, marked Czechoslovakia, for around 100 crowns each. An identical vase on Ebay is on sale from an American vendor, for 29 US dollars.

Many Starožitnosti will have a tray of similarly priced items, around 250 to 350 crowns. You can buy bižuterie (costume jewellery) made from copies of traditional, famous Jablonecká moulds. The intricacy and delicacy of the designs highlight Czech artistry.

Where to go:

  • Maria Fajtlová – Starozitnostibrno. Hrnčířská 13
  • Antique Patrice – Minoritská 1

Another option is the Army shops. You can buy little pins, which are also small masterpieces of craftsmanship and artistry, for under 100 crowns.

Where to go:

  • Army Shop – Hrnčířská 13

4. Your own purse or wallet

Take a good look at the coins in your own purse or wallet. Some have been designed by famous sculptors. Do you have someone scientific in the family? Give them the 20 koruna coin with the Astrolabe design, which is an old astronomical measuring instrument. This coin, minted in 2000, is a limited edition, and will therefore increase in value.

Did you get a newly minted, shiny 2023 koruna piece as change for some purchase recently? Mint condition coins are always more valuable than used coins. They are already selling on the Aukro online auction site for 370 crowns. This coin features Saint Wenceslas. The motto on the coin reads “Saint Wenceslas do not let us and the future perish”. It is a particularly appropriate little Christmas gift, designed by an award-winning sculptor and medalist.

A Brno resident also pointed out that the 10 koruna coin, with its image of the Cathedral of St.Peter and St.Paul, makes a perfectly affordable souvenir of the city, and is a Christmas gift of special relevance.

Particularly for expats and refugees, it indicates to family abroad an important historic landmark of new surroundings, and a poignant “wish you were here”. It is also a promise, prayer and reminder, that while the gift may be small, it represents a great and enduring love.

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